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How I Made My Home Pool Non-toxic

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 September Issue Newsletter

By Luke Pryjma, NOFA/Mass Winter Conference Workshop Coordinator

Our skin is one of our most sensitive organs. The dangers of sun exposure with and without sunscreen have been heatedly debated. The chemicals in sunscreen may do more harm than the rays they protect us from. Organic cotton, or better yet organic hemp, is supposed to not only feel better, but be healthier for our skin because less chemicals are used to grow and process it. In my quest to find the most balanced health for my family and myself, I have taken aim at all things unhealthy we come in contact with. My parent’s chlorine-based pool was in my sights. From my study of soil and human health, I know that more than a few parts per million of chlorine prevents optimal health. In the past, the fact that bugs and frogs died so easily in it didn’t bother me. Now I know our skin is one of our most sensitive organs and it is the barrier to chlorine.

For me and my microbes, this didn’t sit well. We looked for alternatives. I have a history of biting off too ambitious permaculture type projects that always have rough unresolved quirks. (The rocket-mass stove that is supposed to heat my greenhouse is one such project.) I wanted a “green” living pool but realistically the trial and error involved in perfecting that project would have gotten me outcasted from my family. As it is, my mom thinks a three and a half inch lawn is unbearably too long.

So I looked into saline pools. I was just about to commit to saline when I found out that the cleaning mechanism is once again chlorine. Sodium and chlorine break apart in solution and the chlorine disinfects. What I really wanted was balanced water like balanced soil. Pathogens, pioneers of imbalances, are kept in check by the balanced available mineral solution. It would be like swimming in water that improved your health! Because plant, soil, animal and human are 90% dependent on very similar microbial health, a balance for them would be healthy for us. I wasn’t about to rip out the plastic liner, clay line the pool, plant the edges and let life filter it... yet.

Luckily, I came across Eco-Smarte pools, an American made company whose system is based off of an old NASA technology. Astronauts needed a reliable source of clean drinking water. NASA invented a way to oxidize and ionize the water as it is circulated. It is run on low voltage DC current. The current separates the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen and the oxygen oxidizes the water that flows past it. Every ten days, I switch the system to ionize. The current charges tiny copper plates and copper ions ionize the water.

From my studies, copper at .4 ppm - .8 ppm, the level maintained in my Eco-Smarte pool, is safe and may be beneficial. Oxidizing takes care of any bacteria, algae and other organic matter. Ionizing takes care of viruses. Teddy Bear Pools of Chicopee, the company who installed my affordable Eco-Smarte system, told me that if they want to make money they sell salt or chlorine. My Eco-Smarte system has very few inputs. I use a little citric acid to lower the pH or baking soda to raise it (6.8 - 7.2 range). Once a year I’ll have to check the calcium and alkalinity. It is simple. I know it is not the living, health improving pool of my dreams, but my family is happy with the clean pool that doesn’t smell chlorine-y, and I am happy my skin can swim without worry. The frogs and bugs can be scooped out alive.

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